Remember when you would mouth to someone on the playground “Olive Juice” so they thought you were saying “I love you”? Was that just a Kansas 80s elementary playground behavior?
Well, I’m here to revise my past weird whispers to say: I LOVE YOU, OLIVE JUICE! By olive juice, I mean olive oil, not the jarred juice in a dirty martini.
This summer, I felt fortunate and disappointed to have learned a great deal more about olive oil. “Olive oil, why? Allison, you’re weird.” That’s true… but I was able to take a deeper dive into the subject as a feature of a new foodie book club. Our first book was Tom Mueller’s “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.”
What did I learn? Reminders of Olive Oil’s “rich” past. That it was nearly a currency in ancient times and the many, many uses for it. Perfume, lip balm, cooking oil…. The list went on and on so much that it felt Bubba Gump-ish and I mentioned it to one of the girls at our book club meeting (shrimp scampi, barbeque shrimp, shrimp cocktail… we get it, it’s versatile!).
Why was this book depressing? Because I did not know that olive oil is widely unregulated and many (most) times when you think you’re purchasing legit olive oil because um, you’re at a nice store or the label states its extra virgin oil you are actually purchasing lamp grade oil that has been flavored. Say wha???
Well, there just aren’t enough inspectors/emphasis placed on inspecting the oils so many of the producers get away with subpar oils being mixed in (sunflower for example) and colored and flavored to fool us purchasers.
I am especially enraged at learning this because so many people buy olive oil because they are looking for the health benefits of this wonderful, natural product.
On the plus side, the book does offer tips to finding the real deal in pure olive oil. You mean that cheapie bottle I picked up at Trader Joe’s isn’t 100%? Duh, my instincts should have told me that deal was too good to be true.
Tips of picking out a great olive oil (more than my ramblings) are available here: http://www.truthinoliveoil.com/great-oil/how-to-buy-great-olive-oil/
Full disclosure: I only made it through about ½ the book because it started to get so repetitive and um, yeah, I have a newborn baby. As foodie book club met to discuss the book, others echoed the same issues of repetitiveness though so it didn’t make me feel as adult A.D.D. about not finishing. Great info, but needed better editing. Side note and reminder for future life experiences: if I don’t like a book, I’m never going to finish it again. Life is too short.
Our book club met at a great olive oil and balsamic vinegar shop in downtown Roswell, Georgia: Oli and Ve. http://www.oliandve.com/
The owners taught our group how to property taste the oils they have. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you stop by and have them show you in person. Basically they are all in these fancy silver urns and you put a small amount in a plastic cup and then hold it in your hand to warm the oil before gently sipping and breathing through it, much like wine tasting. There are many nuances between even the unflavored oils.
Our bookclub hostess with the mostess even whipped up some olive oil ice cream and Almost Flourless Tangerine Balsamic and Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownie among other treats for us to enjoy (brownie recipe featured on Oli and Ve’s site here – http://www.oliandve.com/recipes/products.asp?cat=49) Photo courtesy of fellow attendee, Heather Hurlbert.
Oli and Ve have three sizes to choose from for both oils and vinegars. Their bottles are cute, they package adorably (for gifting purposes) and offer a $1 discount if you sanitize (dishwasher and you’re your bottles to bring back for a refill. They also offer a frequent buyer punch card to earn a free bottle.
The hardest part of choosing, so I went by the highest scored oil – named Arbosana Mild. I’m loving this real deal olive oil drizzled on my air popped popcorn. The flavor is so different than the ones I’ve had before. I’m excited to expand and explore ways to incorporate olive oil in my future recipes from vintage cookbooks. I don’t think it was a widely used ingredient until recently, but perhaps I can sub for butter or other oils. Stay tuned.